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A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?
October 28th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the debate: By Jim Roope, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - For many American Christians, Halloween is innocent, harmless and fun, and they trick-or-treat, carve pumpkins and don costumes with gusto.

For others, though – especially for some conservative and fundamentalist Christians - Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer.

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“We don’t endorse that or we don’t celebrate that,” said Joe Hernandez, pastor of Worshipwalk Church in Los Angeles, which belongs to the conservative Pentecostal tradition. “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

Halloween’s roots are believed to date back 1,400 years, to the Irish-pagan New Year’s celebration. The Celtic New Year began on November 1. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits.

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Some Christians, like Hernandez, believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil. That’s why Worshipwalk is hosting a harvest festival in its church parking lot on Monday, with kids’ games and face painting.

Hernandez calls it harvesting hearts for God.

Some conservative churches go a step further, attempting to co-opt the holiday with haunted houses - called “hell houses” - that are designed to give a glimpse of eternal damnation in hopes of strengthening faith.

“There’s Satan’s lies and there’s Jesus’ redemption and there’s a message that will change your life,” said Keenan Roberts, who says he is the inventor of the hell house, which people walk or call through, just as they would a haunted house.

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“It’s designed to reach the ‘sight and sound’ age,” said Roberts. “The message is sacred but the method is not.”

Hell houses can be graphic. In Roberts’ hell house – which he markets through his Hell House Ministries – live actors depict scenes of abortion, rape, suicide and murder, though the journey through the house culminates in scenes of redemption through Jesus.

Pastor of the fundamentalist New Destiny church near Denver, Colorado, Roberts said that his ministry has received a lot of criticism for what critics say is “going too far.”

But he said today’s kids are so desensitized that he will do whatever it takes to get the message of salvation to take root.

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Mainline Protestants tend to take a much softer line on Halloween, with some mainline churches embracing it.

“Halloween for me is a time to have fun,” said Wayne Walters, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Burbank, California. “I remember growing up - on Halloween I went trick-or-treating. I was in it for the candy.”

“And at Christmas I put out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, who always took time to sit down and enjoy them,” he continued. “None of those I think had a negative influence, destroyed or diminished my faith, he said.”

Walters says that many non-religious traditions associated with Christian holidays, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, hardly mean those holidays are non-Christian.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Halloween

soundoff (3,144 Responses)
  1. vor

    Bwhahahaah!! CANDY

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  2. really dude

    Even Jesus drank and celebrated occasions...he drank wine

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  3. Kris

    All Hallows Eve...a celtic tradition...that has been perverted by commercialism...it's just another "holiday" to capitolize on. I love Halloween. And Halloween is no more Pagan than Christmas...Christ was NOT born on December 25th people!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  4. Dominos Employee

    It's amazing how an argument so idiotic, yet so hypocritical, can generate so much feedback. In a world full of #$&@ed up $#!t to cover, this piece of religious garbage got coverage... So sad.... So very sad. I expect more provocative pieces than this rehashed cyber-fart from an established news network, and I expect the vast majority of your readers do as well.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • RickeyV

      This site is home for all the bitter, disenfranchised, atheists who come here to proselytize. Might as well push a rope. Once you've had a personal encounter with God, you'll likely die before you change your mind.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  5. Pastor J.

    In the church I pastor (which is a relatively conservative Baptist church) I advocate the "Romans 14 approach." Romans 14 talks about how to handle issues that the Bible does not directly condemn as sin, but which some Christians believe to be sin. The basic gist of the chapter is: If you can participate in good conscience before God, go for it but don't look down on those who believe differently or cause them to violate their conscience. If it bothers your conscience then don't participate, but don't condemn those who decide differently. (My children will be out trick-or-treating, but I won't be flaunting that fact in front of the few members in my church who are uncomfortable with Halloween)

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • ckfox

      I like you Pastor J.!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Johdar

      We need lots more Christian priests like you, Pastor J.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  6. Paul

    What about Easter and Christmas's pagan roots? You're desperate if you think it's coincidence that those holidays happen around the same time has Pre-Christian pagan holidays. Let people have fun. Haloween has as many connections to "pagan roots" as Easter.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  7. Greg

    Hmmm, look at that, CNN inventing controversy where there is none...hard to believe...I have gone a lot of different churches over the years, and have NEVER heard ANY of them preach against Halloween...in fact, the church my wife and I go to is having a Halloween Party for kids on Sunday night...complete with costumes, candy, and hay-rides...ooooo, the controversy!!!!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      **** Hmmm, look at that, CNN inventing controversy where there is none
      ------------------------------------
      CNN reports a story, and you accuse them of creating a controversy ??
      Whatever happened to "dont shoot the messenger' ???

      October 29, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  8. GaryB

    I don't have a problem with conservative christians not celbrating halloween; that's their perogative. I do have a problem when some of them go to my kids school and demand that the school take down the paper jack o lanterns and cancel the kindergarten costume parade because it offends their sensibilities, especially since they are the first people to complain when the school changing the name of their christmas show to "holiday show".

    October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  9. I

    ...and no one mentions Christianity and Catholicism's so-called "pagan roots". Meh.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  10. Plug1

    Celebrating any of the hoildays, like Christmas, Easter, new years, valentines day,halloween, and birthdays and the like, are all from the pagans.People who celebrate these days are accustom to them and have no knowledge about the evils that comes with them. Many people just like to be involved in foolishness. Dressing up like witches and devils etc...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  11. GhessHoo

    Halloween is none of the things above, it is a fun night for children to pretend they are something scary and get a little candy. You can be a child at any age, meaning you can have fun or choose to make some thing more of this than it really is, I don't think God, Allah, Buddah, etc. really give a darn...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Greg

    "Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer"

    Christianity is a celebration of stupidity and has no place in the life of a reasonable person.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  13. Sencho

    “We don’t endorse that or we don’t celebrate that,” said Joe Hernandez, pastor of Worshipwalk Church in Los Angeles, which belongs to the conservative Pentecostal tradition. “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

    Yet his fellow Pentecosts have no apparent aversion to dancing around with and kissing venomous snakes while simultaneously drinking strychnine as a show of their faith in their deity of choice.

    Just sayin'.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • mathetes

      "Conservative Pentecostal" is indeed an oxy-moron.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  14. DC

    Fundamentalist Christians PLEASE get over yourselves! Do you not know that Christmas was also originally a pagan holiday? Are you therefore going to stop celebrating that too? If this is news to you, consider why it is that Jesus was born sometime in the spring (according to the Bible), but we celebrate his birthday in December. People like you give other Christians (like me) a bad name. I have absolutely no problem enjoying Halloween with my family and children.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • mathetes

      Christes Masse still is a pagan holy day.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • RickeyV

      The fact that pagans accepted Christ doesn't mean the Churches feast days are pagan. The Church took over the infrastructure, they didn't become pagan. Chasing demons is what all practicing Christians should do, hiding from them lacks faith.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  15. WoI Admin

    Christmas has Pagan roots – Yule.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • mathetes

      Hmm, if the root is pagan, what is the tree? More importantly, where is the tree? It's in the Garden. 1 John 2:16

      October 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  16. kd

    Americans are so weird with their oddball religions. And they make fun of other religions.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Moli

    Freaking IDIOTS!!!! Halloween was originally a holiday to visit the cemetery to see your ancestors. The Catholic Church demonize ANYTHING that they didn't endorse

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Aloisae

      The Catholic Church doesn't demonize Halloween. It is a Catholic holiday, actually. The name is derived from All Hallow's Eve.. ie. the evening preceding All Saint's Day. As with most Christian holidays, however, it co-opted elements (including timing) from the cultures into which Christianity was spreading which is why most Christian holy days have pagan roots. The Catholic Church has no problem with Halloween ... in fact, its connection with Catholicism is probably the real reason so many splinter group Christians don't like it.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • RickeyV

      The Eve of All Saints(hallows) Day is a Catholic tradition. That's where the name came from. The Evening before All Hallows Day is now Halloween. Be brave, go chase your own demons!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. Sarcasmo

    I'm very disappointed in humanity. Deism is so passe.

    Every time a discussion like this comes up our alien overlords kill a blarfnole. Don't know what a blarfnole is? That's because instead of investing in space exploration you're giving all of your money to a bunch of people who talk to air.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  19. SconnieGuz

    Try living in reality for once ALL you religious people. Is God real? Prove it....until you do shut your face holes. You have the burden of proof and no policy or rule should be made anywhere in the world based on religion. Religion is the cause of just about all the conflict on this whole planet....that offends me. You gonna stop worshipping your invisible friend because it offends me? Brainwashed fools telling others how to live their lives..

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  20. Mike

    Hard-line Christians are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Just about every one of their own traditions most likely have pagan roots, so they have no room to criticize. Halloween is an excuse to go out in public dressed like Batman. Nothing more. There are much worse things in today's society that hard-line Christians could be trying to educate kids about. They need to learn to pick their battles or no one is going to listen at all.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.